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How to install and set up Copilot for Microsoft 365

Copilot for Microsoft 365 offers AI-powered functionality to users, but there's more to consider before installing it. Data governance and licensing determine the setup process.

Copilot for Microsoft 365 has the potential to simplify work tasks and increase productivity for users. But first, IT administrators must set the tool up.

Copilot for Microsoft 365 is a generative AI tool that uses large language models and integrates with the Microsoft 365 productivity suite to automate tasks and answer users' questions with natural language responses. When using apps such as Word or Excel, the copilot can offer real-time assistance in the form of edit suggestions or analysis, for example.

The tool is currently available to enterprise organizations and has a fairly simple setup process, involving data preparation and license assignment. Still, admins should learn the details of this process and review the considerations that come with it.

How to set up Copilot for Microsoft 365

Before setting up Copilot for Microsoft 365, organizations should make sure that they meet Microsoft's prerequisites for using the tool. It's available as an add-on product with Microsoft 365 E3 and E5 plans and has a 300-seat minimum. In other words, customers must have at least 300 E3 or E5 licenses in their organization in order to implement Copilot for Microsoft 365.

Organizations using Microsoft 365 E3 or E5 should already meet most of the requirements to use Copilot, but it's important to review Microsoft's list of prerequisites to be sure. Although Microsoft recommends upgrading devices to Windows 11 to provide better UX, the 365 Copilot is available on Windows 10 as well. Once an organization is sure that it's eligible, admins can begin the process to install and set up the copilot.

Data preparation and governance considerations

There are some important considerations that IT teams must handle before implementing Copilot for Microsoft 365. First and foremost, organizations should handle the security and privacy concerns that come along with using Copilot. It's vital to ensure that users are only accessing the data that they need to do their jobs. IT should implement best practices and tools to prevent data oversharing and restrict access without hindering user productivity.

Organizations using Microsoft 365 E3 or E5 should already meet most of the requirements to use Copilot, but it's important to review Microsoft's list of prerequisites to be sure.

Additionally, organizations must clean up their data so Copilot can use it correctly. To ensure a smooth experience for end users, IT should get rid of any redundant, outdated or trivial data. Other best practices include standardizing file names and tagging files with descriptive keywords.

In general, organizations should be mindful of data governance as they prepare for Copilot and work to maintain compliance as they continue to use the tool. Data preparation can be a long and complicated process, so IT should take this on as its own project before getting started on installation and setup. Creating a plan around data access and management is a crucial first step.

Assigning Copilot for Microsoft 365 licenses

Once an organization has fulfilled all the necessary prerequisites and gotten its data in order, the next step is to assign Copilot for Microsoft 365 licenses to users. There are a few ways to do this. As with any other Microsoft 365 service, admins can assign the Copilot licenses using whatever license assignment approach they prefer. Options include PowerShell and the Microsoft 365 admin center.

In the Microsoft 365 admin center, IT can assign the licenses by completing the following steps:

  1. Log in to the Microsoft 365 admin center and navigate to Users > Active Users.
  2. Select the users that should be enabled with Copilot for Microsoft 365. These users must already have an appropriate Microsoft 365 license assigned to them and be on either the Current Channel or Monthly Enterprise Channel.
  3. Select Licenses and Apps and add the desired Microsoft 365 license.
  4. Under Apps, select Microsoft Copilot for Microsoft 365 to turn on the license.
  5. Select Save to apply the changes.

Alternatively, admins can assign the licenses using the Copilot for Microsoft 365 setup wizard, under the Licenses section. License management is also available in the admin center under Billing > Licenses.

After IT has successfully applied the licenses, users will have access to Copilot within all their Microsoft 365 apps and services. To familiarize users with the new tool, Microsoft recommends that IT should send out an email that explains what Copilot is and how it works. Organizations can also consider setting up a Copilot center of excellence to provide training, drive adoption and gather feedback.

Katie Fenton is associate site editor for TechTarget's Mobile Computing, Enterprise Desktop and Virtual Desktop sites.

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